Several years ago I read a book called The Turquoise Table about how to better connect with your neighbors and friends. The author is a big advocate for hanging out on your front lawn as opposed to the backyard so, naturally, I loved her. One piece of advice she gave was to always have something you keep stocked that you can offer people when they stop by as a way of encouraging longer conversation as opposed to standing in the entryway with the front door open the whole time. Maybe for you it can be mixed nuts and lemonade. Maybe cheese and sparkling water. For me, it’s tea and scones, especially in these colder months of the year.
I like to think of it like a friend trap. Remember when you were little and you caught a caterpillar and then would put it in a box poked with holes and some leaves and droplets of water? Maybe some flowers and twigs? Some grass or moss to make it feel homey? I like to trap friends the same way. You thought you were coming over just to drop something off. Now you’re sitting on my couch with a fluffy blanket and a snack.
Scones are one of those things that I usually have ingredients on hand for, but, more importantly, they bake from the freezer better than if you bake them immediately after forming. So I usually make a double batch of scones and freeze at least half of them after forming. That way, when a friend drops by, I can put some directly in the oven and fresh-baked scones will be ready in 25 minutes.
These London Fog scones are made with Russian Earl Grey Tea from Red Dragon Herbs & Teas and pure vanilla bean paste from St. Croix. You can add these two things to any plain scone recipe to achieve the London Fog effect in whatever quantity you want. I like a really strong tea flavor in mine so I use quite a bit of tea. If this is you also, you may need to adjust your liquid content slightly if it’s feeling a little dry.
For scones I typically use a 1:3 ratio of all-purpose flour to pastry flour even if the recipe just calls for only all-purpose. Pastry flour is going to get you that crumbly texture without being dry. If using loose-leaf tea like Red Dragon’s, make sure to grind it before putting it into your mixture. I usually use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle for this.
We’ve paired the scones with butter (if you’re feeling ambitious, try this clotted cream recipe for me) and Marion Blackberry jam from Clear Creek Orchard. While the scones are baking, all you need to do is steep a cup of tea from Red Dragon Herbs & Teas to go with the scones or brew some of our General Store blend coffee from Pammel Park Coffee Co. If you want to make it fancy without making it complicated, add some vanilla simple syrup from Renn’s Syrups and some warmed whole milk or half and half to either drink.
Your friend trap is almost complete. All that’s left is to create a cozy habitat. Anything warm, cute or pretty works well here. Recommendations include: candles, blankets, tiny spoons, flowers, music. These petite gold cutlery work well in a friend habitat.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy. If even scones and tea are intimidating for you, anything store-bought and ready-made works just as well. The most important thing is friendship. And maybe the fuzzy blanket. Now go trap your friends.
*All images by Meg Shupe Photography